Ben Hansen of Hard News Café recently conducted an interview with vocalist James LaBrie of progressive metal gians DREAM THEATER. A couple of exxerpts from the chat follow below.
Hard News Café: Congratulations on having two consecutive albums in a row crack the Billboard Top 10. After only 20-plus years in the band, do you think that people are finding out about this “secret” DREAM THEATER band?
LaBrie: You hope. I think it still amazes me how often I can come across people who will say, “I just found out about your band,” and then I’ll say to them, “What kind of bands have you listed to throughout your life?” They will say bands like RUSH, YES and PINK FLOYD, and I’ll go, “Wow! That just bewilders me that you can be into those kinds of bands, and not know until recently, within maybe a few years, that we even existed.”
Hard News Café: You guys were kind of the next evolutionary step in progressive metal…
LaBrie: Yeah. The first thing that I would do if I was into those types of bands is I would also be on the Internet. You could research anything — just type in progressive bands of today. It still amazes me that it is still an educational process of letting people know who we are and what we are all about musically. It’s interesting, and it’s great. A prime example — here’s your son. He’s a fan. We’re seeing a LOT of that. We’re the seeing demographics from 15- 17-year-olds right up to 60-year-olds. It’s quite encouraging, and it’s a bit of inspiration to see that we’re covering so many generations.
Hard News Café: You’re four shows into the [North American] tour now. How are things working out with new drummer Mike Mangini, and how has the fan response been?
LaBrie: We did a festival run over in Europe during July and the first week in August. We were over there almost six weeks, and the fan response over there was almost overwhelming. Each and every night, he got a standing ovation. People were up clapping and were quite ecstatic with his involvement. He’s infectious. First and foremost, he’s a phenomenal drummer. Secondly, he’s somebody that exudes such a great and positive energy. He draws you into his vibe, and he has such a great aura and is very charismatic on stage. I think everyone is naturally drawn to him. Each and every day he goes out there and he pulls it off, does what we knew that he would do. I think the beautiful thing about Mike is that he’s been doing this just as long as any one of us has been doing it. He knows what to do, he knows how to prepare, and he knows it’s not just about playing, it’s putting on a good show. He is all of that. We’ve done four shows in North America, and the fans have responded exactly the same way. They’ve welcomed him with open arms, and it’s quite encouraging to see this — for him especially. It’s very gratifying to see that.
Hard News Café: His playing is solid on the new album.
LaBrie: Yes. Wait until you see him tonight. He’s phenomenal! He really is a very unique, one-of-a-kind drummer.
Hard News Café: You guys are well known for doing tons of covers, from RUSH, MAIDEN and QUEEN through METALLICA and RAINBOW. Do you have a particular favorite song that you like to cover?
LaBrie: No, I don’t. That was something that [former DREAM THEATER drummer] Mike [Portnoy] was pretty much the flag bearer on wanting us to do covers, wanting us to pay homage to these bands that had classic albums that were very influential to many different bands out there. To be quite honest with you, my favorite songs to sing are our songs. That’s me. I did have a great time singing the Queen songs, just because Freddie Mercury was my all-time favorite vocalist and consummate frontman. I think that where you really stand out is when you be yourself.
Hard News Café: The newer material seems to focus less on the high-octave vocals, and more on progression, power, and depth on each vocal track. All of the true fans know what happened with the vocal cords (hematoma) years ago — what else has contributed to this change?
LaBrie: I look after myself. I get plenty of rest, I jog three miles a day, I take my vitamins, and I drink plenty of fluids. I don’t drink when I’m on the road. I think that that really helps. Anybody that has been to the shows, especially on this tour, can see that my voice is back to the full prowess self, and I feel great. When I approach any tour, it is about me being able to give 100 percent each and every night. Every singer will tell you that they know what can really assist you in getting there. Everyone has their ways, their little secret potions that really work for them.
Read the entire interview from Hard News Café.